Best of Ireland 16 Jun - Itinerary Review

Another great Tauck tour. Our tour was the standard Best of Ireland but it was a small group start and in fact we only had 18 people on the tour. These are my comments on the Itinerary – most food/dining/hotel comments in a separate post - numbers indicate tour day.

1 - dinner at the Hilton

2 – bus trip with a local guide around Georgian terraces/sqrs, Phoenix Park, O’Connell st with a stop at Trinity College and a brief sight of the Book of Kells (very crowded) then a guided tour of Dublin Castle. You could leave the tour there, be dropped near Trinity College/Grafton st, or back to the hotel.

3- bus left for the drive to Belfast & the Titanic Museum for a tour and scatter lunch (TD gave us 30 pounds per couple). Very interesting & well-done museum. Take the shipyard ride inside the museum if you have time. Kind of unique the way the car moves. Then we picked up our local guide for a bus tour of Belfast.

4 – drive along the coast/Glens of Antrim with a brief stop at Carnlough (a Game of Thrones filming locale – lots of GoT sites in northern Ireland). Fantastic scenery. I asked and the TD had the bus make a brief photo stop at Dunluce Castle before arriving at Bushmill Inn for lunch. On to Giant’s Causeway for about 2 hours to explore. It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk from the visitor center to the bottom but there is a shuttle you can take one or both ways if you desire. Fairly smooth and flat most of the way with some steep sections.

5- on to Derry to meet our local guide for a bus and walking tour. This trip erased my dire images of northern Ireland left over from the years of news reporting on the “troubles”. Both Derry and Belfast were lovely towns even with the reminders left of this time mostly shown in the wall art. After another scatter lunch we headed to the Ulster American Folk park for about 2 hours of self guided touring. Interesting.

6 – this day on the itinerary is different than posted on the website or my green book. For the morning you could chose to stay at the hotel or go to Belleek for a factory tour followed by tea/scones. Then the bus returned to the hotel to drop off or pick up before heading to Donegal for lunch and free time. If the tour stays at Lough Erne (vs Lough Eske) then they go to Enniskillen.

7 – heading to Galway with a stop at Yeats gravesite/photos of Ben Bulben. Another scatter lunch in Galway (40 euros) and free time. Great place to buy a Claddagh ring if you desire or other shopping. From there we took a boat cruise on Lough Corrib that included drinks, a demo of how to make the perfect Irish Coffee and brief dance demo. After the demo I so wished I’d had the Irish Coffee instead of a ½ pint of beer. This cruise was not on the itinerary and I think makes up for the change in hotel (Glenlo Abbey vs Ashford Castle). Dinner at the Pullman rest at Glenlo Abbey.

8 – bus to Kylemore Abbey – one of our two favorite days on this tour in large part due to that fact that since day 7 we didn’t see a cloud in the sky for the rest of the tour. Beautiful scenery, garden, etc.

9 – drive to Cliffs of Moher – beautiful scenery but a bit of a bumpy ride and a day when you realize how much your bus driver earns their pa. It was a sunny Sunday so loads of people – still wonderful though. Arrived in Ennis for our one night there at the Old Ground. Little open since it was Sunday.

10 – drive to Molanna Farm for a tour and interesting insight into life there. A light lunch was provided then we headed to Muckross house for a bit of time to walk the grounds then a guided tour. Interesting and a bit Downton Abbey-ish.
11- driving the Ring of Kerry with more great scenery – we even managed a sight of Skellig Michael due to the clear skies. The TD arranged a stop at Brendan Ferris’s sheep dog demo. So interesting and another add to the itinerary. Stop for lunch at Waterville and more coastal views. There was a chance for a brief visit in Killarney or you could go back to the hotel. Dinner at Killeen House/Rozzers.

12 – long drive to Midleton and the Jameson factory tour, tasting, a free drink and lunch. Very little opportunity to tour the town. I note this only because by this point people were realizing the tour was almost over and they might need an ATM for the TD/bus driver tips.

13 – short drive to Jerpoint Abbey for a guided tour then on to Kilkenny for another guided tour. Both were interesting. Time on our own for lunch, etc before returning to the hotel for another surprise add to this itinerary. Days before the TD had given us a list of Mt Juliet estate activites that we could chose from paid for by Tauck. They included a falconry demo, golf lesson, horseback riding, estate tour, spa treatments, and champagne tea. Playing golf or fishing also but they did include some extra charges.

14 – tour over. It’s about a 1 ½ to 2 hour drive to Dublin airport from Mt Juliet and they recommend you arrive 3 hours prior to your flight. Eight of us had an 11 am flight to Atlanta and had to leave Mt Juliet at 6 am. Actually ended up there plenty early. Security went very quickly (no there isn’t TSAPre) then you can go to the duty free shopping (toilets) or go through US customs. There were no separate lines/kiosks for Global Entry but that may be because the lines were short/fast overall. Nothing to buy once you get through US customs except one vendor with duty free items, 1 food/drink vendor, and some machines.

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